Mishcon control

If you’d asked your average lawyer in your average firm about Mishcon de Reya 10 years ago the response would have been based on two impressions.

First, the firm’s racy publicity after advising Diana, Princess of Wales on her divorce and the posthumous charitable trust. Second, it was reputed to have one of the most fractious cultures of the West End firms, which is certainly saying something.

But in the intervening decade Mishcon has become an object lesson in getting culture right. That culture change has led to one of the biggest growth stories in the law, and won it the accolade Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards.

The recession helped; Mishcon’s litigation practice has powered its rise, adding £30m in turnover in just five years – almost double what it grossed in 2007 at the height of the bull market.

That revenue has been brought in by more bodies – a counterintuitive move in the downturn. And, as any management team will tell you, the early stages of the recruitment cycle don’t usually see much of a return. New joiners tend to operate on a time lag, but throughout this period Mishcon’s revenue per partner (in the high 800s) and per lawyer (in the low 300s) has remained strong.

The fact that partner revenues have stayed robust also tells you something about the culture; Mishcon has moved from individual ownership of clients to a more holistic view. As Kevin Gold reveals on page 18, it’s how you relate to capital, and private wealth clients require a less greyly institutionalised approach. (As an aside, BLP and Taylor Wessing – firms with which Mishcon has much in common in terms of ambition, energy and coherence – are just two examples whose success in the past few years in an otherwise troubled mid-tier has also embraced private wealth.)

And of course, there’s leadership. In 2009 Mishcon equity partners reinvested a slug of profits in the business with the specific objective to invest personally in new laterals – something that says ‘we’re all in it together’ better than any rhetorical pieties from management. If brand in professional services requires self-belief and understanding before it can project outwards, Mishcon has it in spades.